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Billy Bland R.I.P.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:47 am
by john poole
Not to be confused with Bobby “Blue” Bland, although that happened on more than one occasion when publications printed the wrong photo …. - Billy Bland was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on 5th April,1932 - today would have been his 85th birthday, but a Facebook posting by his grandson advises that Billy passed away on the 22nd of last month.

By the end of the 1940s he had moved to New York and in 1954 Dave Bartholomew, after seeing Billy sing in a club, took him down to New Orleans to record as the lead singer with the Bees - the A-side of the single ‘Toy Bell’ was a song that Bartholomew had already recorded twice under variations of another name - 18 years later a live recording would provide Chuck Berry with the only No.1 single of his career. But here's ‘Snatchin’ Back’, the Bees’ B-side ...

Back in New York in 1955 his first release as a solo act was the Bo Diddley styled ‘Chicken in the Basket’ with Brownie McGhee playing guitar. The follow-up ‘Chicken Hop’ also had the benefit of Sonny Terry's harmonica

Billy's one big hit came by chance in 1960 - Titus Turner had been set to record ‘Let the Little Girl Dance’ - Billy was in the studio to record two other songs, thought he was simply demonstrating to Turner how the song should be sung; ended up being recorded and having the issued record (US #7; UK No. 15)

He continued to release singles for the next couple of years including ‘Harmony’ one of the earliest Gene Pitney songs to be recorded; another poultry related song ‘Momma Stole the Chicken’; and perhaps in an attempt to confuse everyone, a version of ‘Little Boy Blue’ - one of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s earliest hits

She’s Already Married (1965) was his his final release, now in a mid 60s Chicago Soul style
(The B-side was ‘My Divorce’)

He later ran a soul food restaurant in Harlem with many of his old records available to be played on the juke box there. Here he is seen filmed in Central Park in 2011

R.I.P. Billy